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T-Mobile and TalkTalk Adverts Banned for Unlimited and YouView Claims

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013 (8:35 am) - Score 787

The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned several ads for TalkTalk’s YouView TV product, which misleadingly described the set-top-box as being “free” despite a £50 install fee. The watchdog also banned an ad for T-Mobile’s (EE) £36 Full Monty Plan after it promoted “Unlimited internet” despite a Traffic Management policy.

Firstly we’ll look at the T-Mobile complaint. Apparently a member of the public complained that a claim on T-Mobile’s website was misleading when it described its Full Monty plan as offering “Unlimited internet” because the operator is known to impose a Traffic Management policy.

T-Mobile’s TM policy is known to be quite strict towards P2P (File Sharing) traffic, which is not unsurprising for a mobile operator, although the ASA ultimately upheld the complaint because T-Mobile had failed to provide “evidence to show that the restriction was moderate and in line with consumers’ reasonable expectations of an “unlimited” service“.

ASA Ruling vs T-Mobile (Ref: A12-200526)

We noted that although consumers might reasonably have expected, for instance, a slow-down of peer-to-peer activity during peak hours due to general congestion caused by more people accessing the internet, T-Mobile had not provided information on how much the activity was slowed down. We also noted that peak hours were between 8am and 2am and there was only a six-hour period during the middle of the night during which peer-to-peer activity was not slowed down.

Furthermore, although we noted the service provided was to a mobile handset, which consumers were likely to use differently to, for instance, a fixed line service, we considered that the ad’s inclusion of tethering within the terms of the service was likely to lead consumers to expect that they could engage in more bandwidth-intensive activities, such as peer-to-peer activity, using the mobile device in conjunction with a computer.

As they had not provided evidence to show that the restriction was moderate and in line with consumers’ reasonable expectations of an “unlimited” service we considered the claim was misleading.”

The ASA has since banned the promotion and told T-Mobile not to claim that their service was “unlimited” if they imposed restrictions that were “more than moderate“. Virgin Media ran into a similar problem during March 2013 (here) and as a result it was forced to adjust its broadband speed throttling down from 50% to 40% (note: Virgin Media has just launched another new Traffic Management policy).

Next up we have TalkTalk, which saw a TV and direct mailing advert for its triple-play Plus TV bundle of broadband, TV and phone services being banned after they claimed that the included YouView TV box was “free” when in fact customers still had to pay an engineer installation fee of £50.

ASA Ruling vs TalkTalk (Ref: A12-215314)

We agreed that one-off, up-front costs, for example to buy equipment necessary to use a free item or for a connection fee payable to a third party, would not negate claims that a product or service was “free”. However, we considered in this situation, because the fee was payable to TalkTalk and not a third party, that situation did not apply.

We understood that the £50 installation charge was payable to TalkTalk by all consumers who took the YouView box, including those who would have liked to install the box themselves – all consumers who took up the claimed “free” offer were charged £50 more than those who did not. We therefore considered that because the YouView box and the £50 fee were inextricably linked, the claims that the box was “free” were misleading.”

Both adverts were banned, although it’s worth pointing out that TalkTalk still promotes a “FREE YouView Box” on its website because customers now have the option of a cheaper £25 engineer installation or they can install the devices themselves for free. As a side note we still think the £25 install is a good thing to pick as the engineer will also check to see if your broadband speed can be improved.

It’s perhaps worth adding that BT’s YouView based service also comes with a £49 activation fee.

A TalkTalk Spokesperson told ISPreview.co.uk:

This ruling has no impact on advertising of our market-leading offer of a free YouView box to TalkTalk Plus TV customers, as customers now have the choice to install the set top box themselves or select to have an engineer install the service for a a small charge.

We have always made clear reference to the fact that our engineer installation is charged at £50 in all our marketing to date, but we are grateful to the ASA for clarifying this technical point. TalkTalk remains the best value way for customers to get YouView.”

Separately YouView had two adverts for its TV service banned over a service feature and because one promotion claimed that YouView was the “easiest way to watch catch up TV“, which the ASA said could not be “adequately substantiated” (here).

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar DanielM says:

    They say about the upload not being much. but it is 1Mbps is a huge cap when tethering (my plan includes this)

  2. Avatar Phil says:

    I am fed up with many companies kept get away with ASA banned. I think it time to call up on ASA to fined any company who misleading described to be fine at the minimum of £10 million pounds.

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